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About the Food and Nutrition Information Center

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Title:Maximizing the Message: Helping Moms and Kids Make Healthier Food Choices
Alt. Title:Core Nutrition Messages
Pub. date: January 2009
Includes: Guidebook, core nutrition messages, supporting content, implementation guidance, PowerPoint and PDF summary, flyer
Audience: Parents, Children, Mothers
Language: English
Description:"Maximizing the Message: Helping Moms and Kids Make Healthier Food Choices" includes 16 audience-tested nutrition messages and supporting content that address important dietary behaviors influencing the health of low-income mothers and children.

Key Features of the messages and supporting content:

  • Development was guided by a workgroup of internal and external experts in nutrition education, communication and the FNS programs.
  • The messages and supporting content are based on findings from 30 focus-groups conducted with low-income mothers and children, over half of whom were participating in FNS programs.
  • The messages are accurate, easy-to-read and emotionally based.

Use the messages, supporting content and guidance to expand and enhance current education activities, support new food package policies and facilitate development of new initiatives. The messages are consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid and support program-based nutrition education as well as cross-program education initiatives such as those outlined in the State Nutrition Action Plans.

Funding Source: United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
Developer: United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
Length: 36 pages (complete guidebook)
Pilot Testing: The audience-focused approach used in the development of the core messages included input from program stakeholders and the target audiences via focus group testing. A Core Nutrition Messages Workgroup consisting of experts in nutrition education, communications, and FNS programs deliberated and made recommendations regarding the behavioral focus, target audience, concepts, and scope of the core messages and supporting content.

Thirty focus groups were held in eight States between December 2007 and July 2008 to guide the development of messages and supporting content and to test final products. In total, 140 mothers and 73 children participated in the groups. All participants had household incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty line; over half of the households were participating or had children participating in the FSP, NSLP, and/or WIC.

A detailed report of the results of the focus group testing and message development can be found at (PDF 16 KB)

Assessment instrument Used? yes
Use Restrictions: May copy for educational purposes.
Reviewers Comments: FNS has released a set of consumer-tested nutrition messages designed especially for low-income mothers and children. These messages and supporting materials can assist nutrition educators in enhancing current and new nutrition education interventions.

There are 16 core nutrition messages addressing 5 concepts: 7 for mothers of preschoolers, 4 for mothers of elementary school-age children, and 5 for 8- to 10-year-old children. These messages may be used alone or with others. Consumer-tested supporting content (e.g., bulleted tips, stories, or recipes) is provided for certain messages in the Appendices.

The nutrition messages were consumer-tested messages have application across all Federal nutrition assistance programs. They can help nutrition educators deliver consistent and accurate messages that support national goals and the development healthy eating patterns in young children. Educators can use these messages in interventions that support policy changes, and to enhance theory-based interventions that:

  • Address the key behavioral outcomes,
  • Use motivators and reinforcements that are personally relevant to the target audience;
  • Employ multiple channels of communication;
  • Actively engage the participant; and
  • Provide multiple exposures to the messages.

Educators can integrate the messages into ongoing educational activities, such as motivational interviewing, facilitated discussions and counseling sessions as well as in educational materials and communication tools.

Other materials and resources are available to assist educators in sharing information about the core messages with staff, colleagues and partners, including a flyer, a one slide summary and a ten slide summary (available on both PowerPoint and PDF). Assistance with developing an evaluation plan is provided in the guidebook. All materials are available free online.

Note: The Guidebook is no longer available to be ordered from the SNAP Outreach and Nutrition Education Materials Ordering Center.

View/download files: 
Core Nutrition Messages:
Guidebook (PDF 64 KB):
Contact the Distributor:
    Distributor: United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
    Mail: 3101 Park Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22302
    Cost: 0.00 per Guidebook
    Avail. in Qty: Yes

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